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Brand Opportunities and Challenges

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CCA Communicator logoFor a long time, California’s energy providers could be counted on one hand. When Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) came on the scene, many cities were able to increase local control over energy choices, positively impact rates, and reinvest in their community. But the big investor-owned utilities (IOUs) still dominate the energy conversation, in part because they have been able to build up powerful brand awareness over many years of operating on their own. Since CCAs succeed or fail based on community confidence, strong brand engagement is not just a marketing nicety—it’s a necessity.

Brands tell a story and a CCA with a weak brand risks being overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the big IOUs and undermined by local misperceptions. The good news is that CCAs are a local benefit, so brand development that’s built on local pride and style will resonate with residents in ways the big utility brands don’t. 

Creating a strong CCA brand requires all the same insight that goes into typical branding—understand the audience, match your values to theirs so you can build visual assets and messaging pillars that resonate, and commit to continual brand engagement to build awareness and trust. But what aspects are unique to CCA branding?

“One-size-fits-all”: as with most public agencies, CCAs need to be careful about speaking only to one constituency. Some residents care about green energy choices, some care more about local independence or improved rates. This is easily solved by brand graphics and messaging that reiterate how CCAs work for everybody and regularly highlight each distinct benefit. Being careful to not build a brand that speaks to only one segment of customers is also important because CCAs often cover multiple municipalities and may eventually add as-yet-unknown ones. 

Complexity: California’s energy supply is complex and explaining how CCAs fit in is a challenge. It’s something that can’t be ignored—CCA professionals may understand all the benefits, but keep in mind that change is unsettling, and nervous people always want answers. The solution here is to create a simple layer to the brand (i.e. logo, basic graphics, messages) that focuses on community benefit, but then to also invest in branding readily accessible, public-friendly content that provides all the detailed information a curious community needs.

The Sound of Silence: While a “just the facts” approach during a CCA’s fledgling first year is recommended, keep in mind that failing to put a brand forward just means that eventually, other voices will fill the vacuum—the “sound of silence” is the story that gets told if you don’t tell your own story. Strong visuals and consistent identity help residents hear the CCA story and, even better, understand it.

CCAs offer the public real benefits but come also with some very specific challenges. The best Community Choice Aggregation brands are a fusion of local identity, positivity, and modernity. Of course, it’s about more than just what the logo looks like; a good CCA brand is about engaging with the public to foster a sense of belonging and inspire confidence in a greener, brighter tomorrow.

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